As a fan of independent film, I’m excited when I’m introduced to the work of noteworthy filmmakers. For several years now, I’ve been hearing about the prolific career of Joe Swanberg and have been curious to check out his movies. Finally at SXSW this year, forces aligned and I was able to check out his latest project, Drinking Buddies, and saw how hype met reality.
Ahh, the summer movie season. This is the time for big spectacles, epic stories, and plenty of action and excitement. The buzz is never stronger during the year than it is right now. And nothing says “Summer Blockbuster” like…The Great Gatsby 3D? Sure, the idea may seem a little strange, but let’s think about this for a moment. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s well-known novel is a story of excessive indulgence—of bright lights, fancy clothes, and lots of money. If anything, the surface level extravagance fits right in with the movie season. And who better to bring this to life than one of the more excessive filmmakers around: Baz Luhrmann? While we’ve seen films tackle this material before, none have done so the way that Luhrmann has. He’s taken this classic story and molded it into a very contemporary piece.
Renoir is well acted and beautifully shot, and it’s rare that this is a detriment to a film, but in Renoir, that’s all there is. The film feels so leaden and clinical. It’s a dull, stately affair. Such is the primary pitfall of biopics. It sure is beautiful to look at, though. But then you’d expect a film about one of the world’s premier Impressionist painters to include a sumptuous color palette—and this is the overriding fault of the film: everything is expected.
Coming out of Justin Zackham’s The Big Wedding, I thought it would be nice for us to brush up on our vocabulary skills. Luckily, I’ve come up with a few words that are appropriate for the film in question. Pencils ready? Let’s begin:
There’s something about the state of Florida that just feels illuminatingly dirty—bright sun and dirt; yellow and brown. It’s a washed-out stain that will never come clean, and it seems to permeate with a psychic sense of a violent, tragic past. The band Modest Mouse has a song on the album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, aptly titled “Florida,” which repeats the lyrics “Far enough, far enough, isn’t far enough.” With the film Sun Don’t Shine, writer/director/actor Amy Seimetz seems to have the atmosphere and attitude of central Florida captured like lightning in a bottle—so much so, in fact, that it might unfortunately be a stain on an otherwise refreshingly crafted neo-noir film.
There’s a cadence to writer/director/actor Shane Carruth’s latest film Upstream Color that feels like poetry. Imagery, sound, and character combine in such a way that it overwhelmed me with its aesthetic of impressionism to the point of something that could almost be considered religious, depending on your definition of the word. This is beyond a good thing. What exists between the opening and closing shots is filmmaking at its purest. Here is the kind of mixture of craftsmanship and artistry that for me transcends the singular definition of either. What I walked away with is an experience.
I don’t know if Andrew Niccol’s The Host is one of the worst movies of the year, or one of the best. It is bad—hilariously bad. The writing is stilted, the acting flat, and the plotting damn near incomprehensible. Stephenie Meyer, best known for introducing the world to the Twilight book series, returns with a story that is one part Nicholas Sparks romance and one part Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s one of the those movies that makes you scratch your head thinking, “What the hell is happening?” It is so absurd and ridiculous that I found myself laughing. This is one entertaining movie, but maybe not in the way the filmmakers intended. Surely they must have known they were making a comedy, right?
Due to the trend of trailers sharing too much of their films’ plots, and thinking of the untapped tween market now that the Twilight franchise has wrapped, I decided to do an experiment with my review for Beautiful Creatures. I am writing half of my review before seeing the movie, to see how accurately my pre-conceived notions will actually align with the end product. Whether it is a pleasant surprise or the same old schlock, I want to find out if expectations match reality.
It may still be early in 2013, but I have already seen a candidate for the worst film of the year. Lasse Hallström’s Safe Haven (2013) is dull, sappy, and manipulative to the point of being offensive. I don’t have an issue with movies being sappy—heck, I don’t even mind if they’re manipulative in a good way. What I do mind are the ones that are dull, that have no sense of creativity or imagination, and instead settle on jerking the audience around with arbitrary plot twists in an effort to be “clever.” The screenplay (written by Leslie Bohem and Dana Stevens) is adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks. If you recognize the name, you’ll recognize the kind of story we have here. But even then, this feels like a parody of a Nicholas Sparks story. Perhaps it would’ve been better if it was approached as such.
As a race, your kind has made great strides throughout history. From technology to the arts, humans have proven numerous times how special their capabilities can be. We see them becoming far more progressive—accepting others for their differences, and even encouraging them to be unique. You have a come a far way from your past, and there is no doubt you will continue to move forward into the future. But with that said, there is a group that you have consistently and negatively fought against. A group that has been given no opportunity to show their worth, despite the fact that they have plenty of it. You have judged this group before knowing who they are, to the point where the very sight of them fills you with anxiety and fear.
We are talking about us: The Zombies.